When you become a new parent, life changes. You'll no longer have the time you did in the evenings to put your feet up and relax! You'll find yourself putting housework first and when you finally sit down, your baby will wake up for a feed! However, it is okay to put yourself first once in awhile. It is okay to put your mental health before the pile of washing up. It is okay to ask for help so you can relax! It's not selfish to want and need time to yourself.
For many parents, 'me time' is hard to come by, and, in a lot of cases, can come with feeling guilty for wanting time away from your child. A 2014 study found that the average mother only gets 17 minutes of 'me time' to herself in an average day. Furthermore, the same poll indicated that almost 75% of the 2000 mothers surveyed, are living their lives for somebody else. More than half said that they do not have the time for their own hobbies and interests since having a child and spend any time planning for the next day! Taking time out for yourself is good for your health both physical and mental. Not being able to relax will leave you feeling tired, anxious, irritable and depressed. It can even lead to burnout (feeling completely worn out both in body and mind), which can impact your everyday life, including looking after your children.
Who is more at risk for burnout?
- Single parents or parents who feel they don't have enough support from their partner
- Parents who put their child's needs above all else, including adult relationships, hobbies, or a job
- Parents of children with special needs
- Parents with chronic physical or mental health problems
- Parents in poverty, unstable relationships, or with other significant circumstantial stresses
- Parents who take on too much at one time such as a full time job and a newborn baby
Parental burnout can affect everybody, not just those who may be more at risk. When feeling at risk to burnout, 'me time' is crucial. Taking a short break from everyday life can allow you to return feeling refreshed and ready for the day's work. 'Me time' doesn't have to necessarily mean booking a week away to visit the spa. It can be anything! Ranging from 20 minutes to have a peaceful shower, reading a good book, catching up on soaps, a night out with your friends, a weekend away or even a holiday! Given that not everybody has the time nor money to book relaxing weekends away every time they are feeling stressed, here are some of the most common things that are typically relaxing to do from home:
Get up an hour early before your children - By waking up an hour before your child does, you can have your morning coffee in peace and take the time you need to wake up properly without rushing around trying to make breakfast and get dressed whilst your child clings to you for dear life! You'll have the time to have a shower and get yourself ready for the day! If you are feeling up for it you can even do some yoga or a morning workout! If you are going to be waking up earlier, remember to try and sleep earlier, aim for 8 hours a night.
Give yourself one night off per week - This doesn't necessarily mean 'go out'; giving yourself a night off can mean anything! Simply, don't do the things you would usually do. When your child is in bed, leave the housework for a night, read a book, invite your friends over, or have a bath. The point of a 'night off' is to do something you enjoy, which can be anything!
Introduce quiet time - When your children reach the age of being too old for naps but still require constant attention, introduce quiet time so you can have some time to yourself. This can be anything, from letting them watch their favourite programme in their room or setting up somewhere for them to quietly draw or read. If your children struggle with this, introduce incentives. If they play quietly for however long you need, you will treat them to something. This works best if you treat them right after they have kept to their end of the bargain.
Do something you enjoy - There is no point in 'me time' if you are not doing something that actually allows you to relax. Whether that be looking through your phone or working out. Some ideas for me time include: going to the cinema, going to lunch with friends, taking a 20 minute walk through nature to collect your thoughts, having a bubble bath with your favourite music on, have a 20 minute power nap if you need it, catch up on some reading or TV, reconnect with an old friend, go for a drive, try a new recipe, go shopping for fun not as a chore, get a massage and turn your phone off. Unless it's an emergency, don't take any calls for an hour.
Relax - It's easier said than done. As simple as it sounds, not everybody finds it possible to relax. Chores that still need doing or the murmuring coming from your child's bedroom as they sleep, can be stressful. There are many ways you can learn to relax! Practise yoga, do a deep breathing exercise for 3 minutes, try out deep muscle relaxation, or write a journal; the possibilities are endless.
Remember, 'me time' is essential to your mental well-being. If you feel like you need a break, don't feel guilty or ashamed in asking your partner, trusted friends and family for a little support whilst you find some time to relax or pick up a forgotten hobby! We are all human, we all need time to recharge!